Fwd: Only as Free as the Padlocked Prison Door

radman resist at best.com
Fri Aug 4 21:09:04 PDT 2000

>From: Ron Jacobs <rjacobs at zoo.uvm.edu>
>Organization: Bailey/Howe Library, University of Vermont
>Only as Free as the Padlocked Prison Door
>by Ron Jacobs
>August 4, 2000
>The folks arrested in the past few days in the streets of Philadelphia are
>political prisoners. They are in the Roundhouse and Holmesburg jails
>because they were expressing their political beliefs. There is a very real
>likelihood that some of them will face serious felony charges and there is
>the further likelihood that a few will face some kind of federal charges
>concerning intent to riot when it is all over (Update August 4: The New
>York Times reports that John Sellers of Ruckus Society is being held on $1
>million bail, with one charge being conspiracy--a charge that means more
>of these arrests will come. Also, Police Chief Timoney of Philadelphia
>Police Department has called for a federal investigation of those "behind
>the protests."). If one recalls what happened in 1968, although it was the
>Democratic convention that was disrupted by the infamous Chicago police
>riots, the Nixon Justice department conducted the prosecution of the
>Chicago 8 conspiracy. Although I still believe that a federal prosecution
>on these types of charges are more likely under a Bush regime, they could
>also occur should Gore win the election in November.
> Prisoners who either have been released or been able to reach the
> independent media from jail tell of beatings in the jails, denial of
> food, water, and medicine, and the denial of legal counsel to those
> arrested. This is but a prelude to what lies ahead. The police are but
> the most obvious participants in the system of oppression in this
> country. Beatings of prisoners happen all the time in our nation's jails.
> Indeed, in the communities of color in our nation, men and women are
> beaten by police even before they are in jail and often without even
> going there. And, as we all know, more than a few are killed without any
> type of due process even considered. None of these comments are meant to
> diminish the brutality of the police in Philadelphia this week nor should
> they be construed to diminish the experiences of those sisters and
> brothers currently being held under less than humane conditions in the
> jail of that city.
> If we are to learn from the experiences of the past--recent and
> historically--we must ensure that the movement does not become a movement
> that spends all its energy getting people out of prison. Nor must it
> become one that forgets those who are in prison. The work around Mumia
> Abu Jamal and other political prisoners has been instructive in this
> matter in that Mumia, Black Panther Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, and others
> are insistent in relating their situation to the greater struggle for
> social justice. If (or perhaps when) the trials of those arrested in
> Philadelphia begin and especially if serious charges are brought against
> those the government deems the movement's leaders (as they did in 1969
> after Chicago), it is up to us to link any struggle for their freedom to
> the greater struggle in the world against global capitalism, racism and
> militarism. In short, we must turn the tables on the prosecution and put
> the system they represent on trial.
> After the protests against the WTO in Seattle there were those in
> the movement who attempted to separate themselves from that action's more
> militant protestors--the so-called anarchists. This was, plain and
> simply, doing the work of the state. We should not allow this dynamic to
> occur, even if we have sincere problems with the tactics of certain
> groups within our amorphous coalition. When this dynamic exists, the
> state and its law enforcement apparatus has no qualms about exacerbating
> those differences, which often leads to our more militant sisters and
> brothers going it alone if they are arrested. One very recent example is
> that of Rob Thaxton (or Rico) who is spending seven years in the Oregon
> prison system for his involvement in J18 activities in Eugene in 1999.
> His trial drew little support outside of northwestern U.S. anarchist
> circles and, perhaps because of that (and the obvious prejudice of the
> judge), he received close to the maximum sentence.
> If more of our comrades end up in prisons this can be a beneficial
> organizing opportunity. As historical events like Attica and the
> struggles for justice in California prisons in the Sixties and seventies
> showed, prisoners of capitalism are open to political education and
> organization. However, it is important to remember that organization of
> those on the outside is equally important and that the emotional and
> political perspectives of the two groups (outside and inside prisons) are
> not always the same. While life is undeniably brutish in many working
> class communities in the world, prison is even more so. Consequently, the
> sense of desperation is often magnified when one is inside. This means
> that one is often prepared to take very desperate measures that, while
> making perfect tactical sense to a prisoner, do not make a similar sense
> when considered objectively from the outside. In addition, the controlled
> environment of the prison allows for even more police interference and
> manipulation of people and projects than occurs in the "free" world.
> All this said, let us take inspiration and instruction from those in
> jail in Philadelphia and those political prisoners throughout the United
> States. The struggle to free these prisoners and the struggle to free us
> all from the economic prison of global capitalism and its evils are one
> and the same.
>-Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the
>Weather Underground
>- Ron Jacobs
>Burlington, VT.

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